Augmented Reality Past, Present and Future: How It Impacts Our Lives

By: John Brandon ‡November 7, 2009

Augmented reality Android and iPhone apps are just the beginning. We explore the future of augmented reality software, apps, games and more.

Can¶t stop hearing about it in the news, but wondering what makes ³augmented reality´ (AR) ± the concept of overlaying computerized information, digital pop-up windows and/or virtual reality (VR) displays over real-world scenes and imagery ± so exciting? Allow us to paint a picture. Imagine. You walk up to an airport terminal and breeze past the airline check-in. Afterwards, a wireless chip in your smartphone uses biometrics to verify your identity at a checkpoint, then a green arrow pops up and shows you the best path to the gate. When you get there, a blue circle shows you where to sit and helps you avoid the most common congestion points. You wait about five minutes until a soft chime tells you to get in line. The total time between drop-off and take-off: Just 20 minutes.

Nearest Tube In this near-future scenario, just one of many possible applications for the technology, the concept of augmented reality makes air travel more bearable. More than just a series of visual cues, the technology can even combine auditory sensors and other stimuli to make high-tech data part of your everyday life. Like robotics, there¶s a visceral and physical

´ Tweetmondo This year. Of course.representation of the underlying artificial intelligence involved. ³Kids will use it in school as a learning tool ± imagine Google Earth with AR. it¶s not too farfetched to wager that in the not-too-distant future. Even the unlikeliest candidates such as the US Postal Service.or AR-enabled text books. augmented reality could actually become as integral to our lives as cell phones and Web 2. offer an early glimpse at how the technology works. feel. Relying too much on augmented reality could mean more than just driving into a lake when you follow poor GPS directions. Architects and city planners will even use it to see how new construction will look. ³Augmented reality will ultimately become a part of everyday life. following the prompts of a software program designed to make your life easier could lead to life-threatening disaster . Shoppers will use it to see what products will look like in their home. A&E Network. And with real-world implications that range from expediting everyday business travel to fueling potential military research. facilitating heightened responses in emergency scenarios and powering the world¶s most immersive video games. apps such as Nearest Tube for iPhone (which displays real-time pop-ups alerting users to nearby train stations in London) and Tweetmondo for Android smartphones (which shows the status updates of nearby Twitter fans).0 sites in terms of how it enhances reality and integrates with our surroundings. Consumers will use it to visually determine how to set up a computer. Instead. augmented reality will forever change how we think about data and how we process information. and GE are beginning to show how augmented reality could help us interact with and understand digital content in more interesting ways. Knowing this. an associate art director for digital innovation at the ad agency Ogilvy and Mather. there are dangers involved. and affect the area they are developing.´ explains Sam Bergen.

who produced the AR portal. AR is an attempt to meld digital content with physical objects. in the right conditions. the next phase of smartphone apps that employ augmented reality components will introduce actual interaction with digital objects. Another example of augmented reality in motion: The A&E Television network created an augmented reality puzzle game to promote a magic show with Chris Angel. and for others to manipulate the everyday real-world feedback we take for granted. says the initial AR entertainment apps and games on the on iPhone and other smartphone platforms are just the beginning. Interacting With Digital Objects In many ways. But as fun a concept as even these digital diversions seem. What¶s amazing about this AR simulation. you first see a digital representation of a shipping container. the technology could make our lives less complex and far easier. is that it offers immediate and clear benefits.and a new form of hacking and identity theft. there is a potential for sensory overload. At the site. John Swords. are using the GPS and compass to overlay data onto the video . which went live this past summer. Given the tools to make augmented reality part of our lives. One of the best examples of this is the US Postal Service¶s priority mail shipping simulator. The box overlays on the toy so you can see if the object will fit or if you need to use the next largest size. ³Most mobile apps. though: Augmented reality is an important step on the road to making technology more understandable and useful. a child¶s toy ± and hold it up to a webcam. particularly on the iPhone where there is a software limitation. Still. Part science fiction. part a reaction to today¶s increasingly overwhelming constant barrage of digital content. you take the object you want to ship ± say. Currently limited to simple overlays. one thing is for certain. helping demonstrate just one of the quickest upsides to be recognized by employing the technology. Then.

³Eventually.feed.´ Markerless AR Markerless Augmented Reality Swords says another use of augmented reality in development is called ³markerless´ AR. A project underway at the University of California shows how you can see and ³touch´ one of these faux objects.´ agrees Scott Smith. we may spend as much time looking at recreations of reality as we do looking at reality itself. Think about how often you look at some form of Google Maps today (or MapQuest or others). and that there may come a time when we .´ says Swords. AR needs these legitimate examples to help spur other companies to invent cutting-edge augmented reality services. a technology forecaster at Changeist. where a user interacts with a virtual object in 3D space in real-time. GE created another eye-opening proof-ofconcept that shows a bridge and windmills that appear when you hold a sheet of paper up to a webcam. processing and integration. but AR has the potential to create a whole new kind of disintermediation. the windmills spin faster. ³This will lead to the next point in the field¶s evolution. roads we drive on. particularly if we become dependent on the insight AR provides. using it to enhance perspective and depth of field. etc. push the category forward and prompt widespread user adoption of ARenhanced devices. If you blow into the webcam microphone. ³We have to get past big hurdles of data capture. ultimately making them as prolific in the future as cell phones and laptops are today. people we pass on the street. as a field. storage.´ Smith says augmented reality could become so ubiquitous that we use it just as often as we go online. which is to be able to directly manipulate objects in the video feed. Bergen says that. Expect to see multiple layers of information about anything [going forward] ± the food we buy.

a professor at Saint Bonaventure. ³it¶s more about primal sensory data. Often. For example. Military AR Applications Charles Gannon. enhanced feedback on surroundings.´ which Gannon says can be a detriment in tense situations. but augmented reality would readily fill in the gaps and help project future scenarios to give us a better understanding of developing variables and potential ways to react to them. in the airport terminal example cited above. allowing them to react faster to breaking development. . this could consist of showing you a virtual picture of an airplane before it reaches the gate so you can see what type of aircraft it is and where you will be sitting. a futurist. For example: A moment¶s glance could be enough to identify where a sound is coming from. helping them determine whether to move in closer. ³AR would connect at an instinctual level. we have a hard time understanding the absence of data. says that augmented reality could become an important aid in combat as well. or to examine the sound of gunfire and identify which automatic weapon is being used and from what vantage point. Gannon says another interesting use of AR has to do with representing physical objects that are not visible yet. an anti-terrorism team could use AR technology to show HUD pop-ups for dangerous toxins in the area that are not discernable with the naked eye. and a frequent military consultant for the Department of Homeland Security. rather.wonder how we ever viewed the world without the help of AR insight and prompts. with an overlay displayed on a visor helping identify the attackers making these noises¶ possible locations or identifying assailants with color-coded warnings. ³A SWAT team would have greater perception. police and military forces would have to think less about how to deploy or which tactics to use as augmented reality offers real-time. It¶s not just about more maps or more statistics.´ says Gannon. For instance.´ Equipped with AR technology in this scenario.

we¶ll need to match the problem with the right solution. giving the example of an incoming commuter flight and how he¶d rather just get a text message and not have augmented reality even part of the equation. and providing clues about underlying data that we would not normally . experts agree on one thing. and like all tools. Source: http://www. enhancing our perception.digitaltrends. ³Augmented reality is just another tool.The Future of Augmented Reality So where will all this innovation lead? Gannon says that in the next 10-20 years. however. however. augmented reality could become commonplace ± but he also warns about the dangers of using AR technology just because it is available. It¶s up to tomorrow¶s innovators.´ he says. In the end. to make sense of the technology and find ways to really help make it compute. Augmented reality is certainly a major step toward the virtual world intersecting with the physical.

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